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Easy Wheeling in Sydney Harbor and Opera House

What a beautiful day to begin exploring downtown Sydney, the Royal Botanical Garden, and Sydney Harbor! Although my hotel was fabulous, eating there was very expensive. Like most things in Sydney, actually. So I decided to venture out and find a local place to eat and wound up at Piccolo Me a few blocks away from my hotel. They had several good selections for breakfast, or “brekky” as the Australians call it, and was a perfect spot for people watching during the morning rush hour.  Afterwards I headed a few blocks east towards the Royal Botanical Garden.  This area seemed to be the Sydney equivalent of New York City’s Central Park, and was a lush open area of green grass, several beautiful monuments and small historic buildings, and hundreds of native plants and flowers to appreciate.  There were a few spots on the pathways that had steps, but there was always a way to get around in my electric scooter. There was also a beautiful pathway along the seawall that bordered the harbor and led all the way to the opera house. I took advantage of some spare time before my tour to take some photos in the harbor under a cloudless sky.

At noon, I began the first part of my Sydney Opera Secrets Tour with the Australia in Style tour company. They offer several options for “no steps” tours, so I was looking forward to seeing the Opera House with no obstacles. The history of the building is a fascinating one, and I got to hear it again in the most unique way possible later that day; more on that in a bit. We saw several of the concerts halls, a rehearsal space, and the areas underneath the stages where they haul the sets up using large moving platforms.  Towards the end of the tour we got to see something really neat — a close-up of the tiles that make up the world-famous roof of the upper house. They’re made of a particular Japanese ceramic that is self-cleaning, so every time it rains it washes any dirt off the roof.  After this part of the tour, however, was when the real magic happened. I met up with a veteran of the opera world named Marie Claire. She has been coaching singers at the Sydney Opera House for years and was good friends with the opera legend Joan Sutherland before she passed away five years ago. Marie Claire and I sat down to talk about her amazing experiences and listen to her fascinating stories before taking a behind-the-scenes tour of some restricted areas in the opera house, like the areas where they prepare the wigs and the stars apply their makeup before shows.  Afterwards, Marie Claire asked me if I had planned on attending that night’s opera on the front steps of the opera house, which would be a retelling of the history of the building. I told her I didn’t think I could get tickets, so she offered to give me her staff discount and helped me get a ticket for that night. I culdn’t believe it! I would be seeing not only an opera at the Sydney Opera House, but on the front steps under the stars! I couldn’t wait.

After the tour, I rushed back to my hotel to meet with another friend of a friend and his family for lunch at a local restaurant. It was so great to have yet another personal perspective of life not only in Sydney, but as Australians.  After lunch, I recharged my scooter for a bit then headed to the opera house for the show. Because I bought my ticket late, I was in the last row but still had an amazing view of the performance on the front steps. This is easily one of the top experiences I had during my stay in Sydney. It was a beautiful night, and hearing the history of the opera house told in this unique manner was absolutely incredible.

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